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Clergy Wives

(12 Posts)
JandT Mon 19-Sep-11 13:22:53

My DH is currently going though the selection process (waiting for interviews and if he 'passes' he'll go to a BAP) and has now mentioned that whereas he'd said he'd be a SSM due to having a young family, he'd like to do that for 10 years then be a full time parish priest. This of course means moving, the children will be primary school age (factoring in unborns!) and I just don't like the idea (which is why I was happy with SSM).

Does anyone have any experience of this?! Is there anybody out there who is married to an SSM that can tell me what that's like? Also, what about parish clergy wives with young families?

I don't want to move, I like my life and like my children having stability so am currently annoyed at DH for only mentioning this now (he thought he had....) and trying to imagine what life would be like, because as we all know, arguing with God's will is pointless!

Thank you!!

AuntGertrude Tue 20-Sep-11 09:45:10

I would imagine that part of the discernment process of going through selection is working out what kind of ministry your DH is called to - is it full-time ministry or self-supporting ministry? I don't think it's a question of deciding to do one for a while and then asking to swap to another. Where does he see himself being called to serve God - in his workplace and environment and community in which he's set, or as a full-time parish worker? This matters very much in terms of the theology of being called but unfortunately more practically it matters in terms of the funding of training and the church. Training someone to be an SSM presupposes that a diocese of the C of E is not going to be expecting to pay a stipend for that ordinand somewhere down the line. (It barely has enough to pay the stipendiary clergy it already has.) I imagine that through the selection process your DH will be recommended for either one or the other type of ministry but not a "try it for a while then swap" kind of thing.

Sorry not to be more helpful. I don't know of any clergy spouses of SSM's but I would imagine that the life would involve regular work, plus some extra duties on Sundays whilst the SSM does their curacy, and things like visiting/evening meetings/weddings/baptisms. Depending on your DH's work commitments, there are fewer opportunities to do funerals.

Life as a parish clergy wife with young children can be great - it depends how welcoming and supportive your church is.

aig Wed 21-Sep-11 09:44:15

I know a bit about the discernment process in the C of E (I start at college on Sunday - arrrghhh).
When I was trying to discern SSM against stipendiary, I was told by a very experienced priest that it is now very difficult to change from SSM to stipendiary after a BAP. He suggested that I should be sponsored as stipendiary and then decide later.
Your DH can train for Stipendiary ministry part time (on a local course) and will not need to decide anything until his diocese start suggesting curacies (~1 yr before he finishes training). Studying part time is about the same time commitment as expected from an SSM; a minimum of 15 hrs a week. You could then see whether this seems sustainable or whether fulltime ministry would actually give you more family time together.
I hope it works out well for you all.

JandT Wed 21-Sep-11 23:04:51

Originally DH wanted to be stipendary but realised that moving us all when we were planning children wouldn't be good (DS aged 10 has had an unsettled life & has only become stable in recent years since I came along). He's a teacher though & also feels he has a vocation there.

His DDO has told him to put both on his 'application forms' & then he can change if he wants to. She also told him he'd be doing 1 evening a week, 7 weekends & 1 week a year studying.

He went to a vocations day recently & was told it would be fine to go stipendary in the future but sooner rather than later as age can go against you.

To be honest, by the time I run some stuff at my church & we have children, we regularly have weeks where we only get one evening together as it is.

We both strongly feel God wouldn't want our marriage or family to suffer, but we're waiting to find out how it'll work out!

Mummyrev Wed 21-Sep-11 23:20:36

It certainly isn't impossible to swap from SSM to stipendiary but in our diocese you have to go back to the DDO and then go forward to another selection type committee. Not quite as demanding as the first time through but still hard work.

To be honest I think you can still have a stable home life plus a spouse in full time ministry. There is no need, or at least there shouldn't be, to sacrifice your family security on the altar of a parish job. It should be a joint decision though about where you are prepared to go and be. I worked in parish ministry before I was married. I felt called to work in a demanding place. I currently wouldn't be prepared to put my husband and children through the joys of living in such a fragile place now. My priorities and thus my calling has changed.
So don't see stipendiary ministry as the end to stability. It needn't be.

Mummyrev Wed 21-Sep-11 23:22:11

Oh and enjoy college ang.

aig Thu 22-Sep-11 08:01:52

She also told him he'd be doing 1 evening a week, 7 weekends & 1 week a year studying.

That is the contact time on the course. But does not include the time needed for study, reading and essay writing, as well as group projects. I know a number of people who have trained on courses and they all ended up reducing their work hours (ideally to about 3 days a week) to allow time for all of this.

JandT Thu 22-Sep-11 15:54:49

Mummyrev - I think you are right about where you are prepared to go but I also know a lot of people who haven't been lucky enough to have a 'free parish' in even the connecting county to where they would like to be.

The DDO has told him that he'd need to go back to her, then they'll find him a post and if they're not 'successful' he can just apply the normal way. I 'had words' with him again last night about him not having really asked the right questions and he will apparently contact her and ask the practical questions now...

I feel that life could be stable but it needs to be 'on our terms' and I know that's not how the church works. Plus as I've said, I would hate to move away leaving my family and friends-I only moved out of the town I grew up in at the age of 27 and we've moved very close by! I like knowing the community where I live, have gone to the same church all my life, etc and know that as a clergy wife you can't start normal friendships in the way you would as a member of the congregation. I also know that if you have small children it's more difficult to start up friendships and moving your child mid school makes that even more worse (I've twice been the 'new Mum' in the playground and I hate to say it but most Mum's aren't welcoming but suspicious).

I already volunteer a couple of nights a week plus run a committee and other things at our church so family time isn't as much as we would like. Last night we were discussing having a sabbatical from church to see what our lives were like with all that time. grin

aig - I know that's the contact time but DH is very good with structure when he's studying. He's done an MA, his teacher training, first year of teaching and then normal teaching since being with me and whereas everyone else seems to work all hours, he has never been stressed or behind on his work but also has never made us lose time with him. I find it odd when people tell me how late their teacher partners work as he rarely brings work home, getting it done in free lessons and before work (he goes in at 7am so we don't miss him in the evening). I know he'll handle the work well, it's more the time away. We seem to be good that if he does have a lot of things to do I make sure he doesn't have so much to do at home.

madhairday Fri 23-Sep-11 18:04:51

Hello JandT. My dh has just started his first incumbency as a Pioneer Minister after having completed his curacy,so full time stipendary. I don't know a lot about the mechanics of SSM, is it like NSM?

We went to college when our dc were five and two. Yes, moving was a wrench and has been every time since (well, twice since smile) but it has honestly been the greatest adventure and I wouldn't have it any other way. The dc are confident and outgoing because of moving around and making new friends, and I would say it is actually much easier to make friends with young children as there is school, toddler groups, whatever, and so much to get involved in.

I am of the belief that these callings for ministry are not only for the person going for ordination, but for their families. We have always been very much of the mindset that we come as a unit and that the children are called as much as us, and therefore whatever we do and wherever we follow God's call to will be the right thing for them as well as us. We have seen this to be the case - big time- in God's provision for them and in how they respond to situations and also in their relationship with God. They do half the footwork of the job in this case (church planting) bless them!

So what I'm fluffing round trying to say is that if your oh is called, whether to ssm or stipendary, it will be what is right for your family, and if you need to move, there will be difficulties but you may well find it's the most exciting and fulfilling thing you ever did.

I was bought up in a clergy family also and wouldn't have it any other way smile

JandT Tue 27-Sep-11 21:15:40

Hi madhairday, thank you for your helpful comments, I'm feeling a little bit better about it now. SSM is the new 'word' for NSM (I get told off for saying NSM!).

I think I imagine it like I am at my church now which is constantly being involved and helping with things whether I plan to or not which means I don't feel I get much time to 'make new friends' at the moment, I just about keep up with my old ones!! I was at a group earlier though and realised that if I wanted/needed to I could easily make friends, just I'd have to actually have a tidy house I didn't mind people seeing, have the money to socialise and children that can be seen in public...

I agree about the calling for the family which is why I struggle when it feels like it doesn't work for my family (DS aged 10 is very against moving as he struggles with change after his Mum dying when he was 3). We are like you in that we all come together (I think we're one of the few families where both parents deliver children to parties!) and I guess it's a leap of faith for us as well as DH.

I think I always think of clergy families like army ones where you get moved every few years and the children can struggle to adjust!

eaglewings Sat 01-Oct-11 21:58:08

Been meaning to post on here since your opening post but it's been the 2 of the worst weeks of my life, getting back on track now thanks to the prayers of the village

I am a planner and think through all the possible options, timings, school ages, etc. God has taught me (and I have learnt the hard way!) that its best to trust in Him as all my plans get thrown out the window and His palns are much better anyway.

Both my dh and I are ordained, dh did his curacy first then went NSM (could call it that then) while I completed my 4 years curacy. We then job shared for a few years and now dh is full time and I have 'retired' due to ill health.

I did the part time course, having already done a diploma it was OK to fit in around life, school teachers were on the course and the tutors understood the demands on their time

Moving the family every 4 years was OK as my kids were 3 and 3 months at the first move and 7 and 4 at the second and we are now somewhere settled, been here 6 years and hope to stay a while longer.

Friends who have had older kids have had more problems moving but it is amazing how God has provided. In one instance a friend moved west and had no school place for her DS. He did not go to school for 2 weeks while they looked but they looked round a private school one week and by the following Monday a brand new scholarship had been created and her DS had a fully funded place with extra money for trips etc.

I have always made friends as I would had I not be ordained or a vicars wife. The tales of clergy wives not having friends is happily out of date.

In the playground I have been treated the same too, if the kids make friends then the friends parents have been relaxed and accepting.

When I became ill I wasn't sure how people would react, but other than a small clique who dropped me, I have found great support as long as I am honest.

In one church of the many we have been involved in, the kids were not welcomed, but in all the others it has been fab. My one piece of advice is make sure any church you go to already has children's groups for the ages your kids are at, otherwise you will npbe the one starting them up

As a SSM you often have far more say about where you end up. But God is always one step ahead of you anyway

Do PM me if you want to talk more, I'm better chatting on the phone than typing

It is a scary place to be, make sure a close friend knows how you are feeling and can pray with you. One of my closest friends is going through this at the moment and I know from listening to her, that having decisions taken out of your hands, ones that effect the whole family is a scary place

madhairday Wed 05-Oct-11 12:24:53

eaglewings would be good to talk with you more as we have similar situations of clergy husbands and being in ill health - are you on fb? Let me know by pm smile

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